Scientists track a single atom inside a human cell and foresee subsequent advances in drug development.
According to Professor Lloyd Hollenberg, a physicist at the University of Melbourne, the atom was encased in a nanodiamond shell. Researches used it to explore the human cell and they were excited to see how this quantum sensor experienced the environment of the cell’s interior.
Professor Hollenberg stated that this experiment would enable future researchers to create an entire class of these quantum devices and do more research in the nanoscale environment.
The quantum sensor was able to detect cell activity and the entrance and exit of chemicals. Understanding these processes is a crucial step in developing medicines targeted at the molecular level.
A team composed of members from various scientific departments at the University of Melbourne crafted the tools and technology to manipulate and monitor the atom inside its nanodiamond shell. When these proved successful, they inserted the quantum sensor into human cells kept in the laboratory and sought to track its movements there.
According to Dr Yan Yan of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department, the sensor they developed can provide important information about movement inside a human cell. Since drug delivery depends on the interactions of similarly-sized particles inside cells, the information gathered will be useful in new drug development.
Liam McGuiness, a physicist from the school of Physics at the University of Melbourne, also noted the significance of this achievement. The ability to monitor the movement of such a small sensor in a microscopic environment was not previously possible, he says, except in controlled environments inside physics labs.
Following these initial experiments, scientists involved in the effort hope to develop more of the same
technology in the coming years. These tools may enable the creation of previously impossible drug developments.